Australia: 5 tips for drafting position descriptions

Last Updated: 21 September 2019
Article by Fabrice Empeigne

The day to day priorities of management and HR professionals can sometimes leave position descriptions as an afterthought. However, when drafted properly, position descriptions can be an invaluable tool for both employers and employees.

Why have position descriptions?

A position description is a useful, concise tool that outlines the duties, functions and responsibilities of a position. Position descriptions play an important role in determining the clarity of a role and finding the right candidate when recruiting. Often this will be used to form the basis of a job ad when advertising and gives the selection panel clear and objective criteria to assess candidates.

As well as the benefits during recruitment, position descriptions are a useful ongoing management tool. The position description sets a clear ongoing standard of the role for both the employee and management. If performance becomes an issue, and performance management becomes necessary, an employer may need to refer to the requirements under a position description.

Position descriptions can also serve as a strategic human resource planning tool when looking at the overall structure of your organisation. By embedding your organisation's mission and vision into the position description, you can ensure effective performance of the role, aiding the organisation's overall strategic objective.

5 tips for drafting position descriptions

When preparing position descriptions, employers should be mindful of the following:

Tip 1: Position descriptions are not task lists

A position description should not try to cover all day-to-day tasks a position may have. A position description used as an extensive task list can lose meaning, be overwhelming, and fail to provide the guidance that it should. The position description should focus on what the employee has to achieve, not how they do it.

Tip 2: Setting the expectation

The position description should describe the permanent ongoing role, so the employee has a clear understanding of the role from the beginning of their employment. The role's key duties and responsibilities should be stated in clear and succinct point form. It is these duties that performance will be measured against.

Tip 3: Don't attempt to be exhaustive

There needs to be a balance between maintaining sufficient detail to ensure clarity and allowing flexibility to meet the operational changes an organisation is likely to face in the future. The employment relationship is dynamic and this needs to be kept in mind when drafting a position description. An attempt to be exhaustive in preparing a position description has a number of inherent risks for the employer including:

  • It could result in an employee claiming they only need to perform the tasks of their position description and not other incidental duties that come up from time to time.
  • It can limit the extent to which the employer can adjust and amend the position and duties going forward.

Tip 4: What to include

Position descriptions should generally include:

  • Position title: It is not so much that a position title needs to be included (that much is obvious) but rather that the right position title needs to be included. Common titles that people are familiar with should be preferred, whilst jargon or gimmicky titles should be avoided.
  • Position summary: This should be a concise statement capturing the essence and strategic objective of the role.
  • Organisational context: Identify the overall purpose within the business. This can also state the relevant challenges the role aims to address for the business.
  • Reporting relationships: The statement of the role's direct reports and who the role reports to.
  • Key duties and responsibilities: This should give the employee a clear expectation of what is required of the role and can be used to monitor performance.
  • Essential Criteria: The selection criteria should describe the requisite experience, skills and knowledge to successfully perform the role. This criteria will be crucial not only for recruitment, but ongoing management to ensure the employee has the skills to perform the key responsibilities.

Tip 5: Ensuring position descriptions remain up to date

Position descriptions should be reviewed regularly (typically annually) to ensure they remain relevant and are kept up to date. There is a risk if a change in the focus and accountabilities is extensive. For example, altering an essential requirement of a position in some instances could amount to a constructive dismissal or could be argued as a redundancy. This risk is best minimised by ensuring the employer doesn't take an exhaustive approach to position descriptions (Tip 3) and noting in all position descriptions that they will be subject to annual review.

Conclusion

Given position descriptions remain relevant from recruitment and throughout employment, it is crucial that employers and managers carefully plan and prepare effective position descriptions, and that they remain up to date. There are a number of benefits in doing so including attracting and selecting the right candidates, ensuring an employee clearly understands their role, as well as to monitor progress and manage performance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions